(from your church planting sister who has been keeping a spot warm for you)
- Winters are loooooooong here. (There’s a reason they call us the Frozen Chosen.) Give yourself permission to make whatever adjustments you need to in order to deal with the cold and dark. Ideas: buy a new devotional that you’ll only break out during the winter; find a fun way to celebrate the first day of winter, the last day of winter, and any necessary days in between (maybe like taking a long bubble bath the first Friday of every month); find a few favorite hot drinks (and really explore the options because you’ll be spending a lot of time with the winners); make a gloomy day tradition of lighting candles or plugging in twinkle lights; get a sun lamp if you need to; find an exercising buddy and make a plan together; save some bigger projects for the winter months (like setting up a prayer scrapbook or having coffee with one new person a week or deep cleaning your house or learning something new); go outside as much as possible for short walks, building snowmen, etc.; research the Danish winter tradition of hygge; keep healthy snacks available (because the tendency to always reach for comfort foods every time it’s grey outside will not be good to your body); stay alert for signs of depression (I know this sounds pessimistic, but it’s better to catch it early than to be completely devastated by it via short-lived ignorant bliss); find at least one person besides your husband you can confide in—hopefully the church planting wives’ group can help with that; be careful to keep your schedule balanced (consistently underwhelming plans are just as much of a danger as consistently overwhelming ones).
- Enjoy the area. This is the time to let your adventurous side out! Go on some date nights to hot spots around town. Explore the sights. Prayer walk through all of the neighborhoods. It’s okay to be a tourist for a little while. Figure out what the locals do and spend some time experiencing it so you’ll have something to talk about when you need to relate to someone. (For instance, we had never been to a Catholic church service before moving here, so we tried it out. Now we have a shared experience with lots of people in Putnam and a funny story to go along with it.) Take a class. Join a group. These are fantastic ways of learning the culture and establishing relationships at the same time.
- Bring your heart along. I know it’s tempting to keep ties to your previous home sturdy, but be careful of spending so much time maintaining your old relationships that you restrict new ones. Embrace the fact that God is ultimately your home, and at least for this season, He’s brought you here with good plans in store for you. Look for ways He wants to surprise you with joy as you unpack your boxes and your heart and get settled in.
- Recognize spiritual warfare (because it’s really a thing here). Welcome to the front lines—it’s going to get ugly. Prepare yourself for taking up your armor daily and resting in the Lord to bring the victory. Any time we fight back the darkness, there will be opposition, and honey, you’ve got a target painted on your back. But greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world. This is a good time to hide God’s Word in your heart. If Satan attacks your identity, plaster your space with verses about who you are in Christ. If he goes for workaholism, cultivate intentional Sabbath rest. Figure out which weapon he uses and respond accordingly. (Interestingly, shame is one of his favorite weapons among planters’ wives. Your spiritual life isn’t absolutely perfect? Then how dare you come here and do this work?! Spot those fiery darts and drench them with truth.)
- This is no time to pretend. Your heart, your family, your ministry, your church are all too important to make everyone think you’re fine if you’re not. There is no shame in getting counseling or asking for help. You’re no less a child of God than the old lady in the back row of your church. Jesus’ desire for you and your family is healthy, abundant life. Don’t let lies from Satan deter you from the fullness meant for you. (There’s a counseling line provided by NAMB for church planters/families if you need it: 1-844-727-8671.)
- Permit you to be you. Don’t accept the pressure to be whatever the church needs at the moment. You are called to your husband, not to his church. Love him, serve him, help him, and beyond that, feel free to work out of your gifting in any way God leads, but don’t be guilted into something you’re not meant for. The need is not the call. Are you an admin person? Great! Do that. A kids’ leader will come around in the Lord’s timing.
- Journal. Journal, journal, journal. This is an exciting time, and so much happens that it’s easy to forget later on. Jot down how you see your prayers answered, how God moves, little encouragements He plants along the way, anything to help build your own soul’s testimony of His faithfulness. You’ll need it when things get tough.
- Be patient with the process. It’s a fairly accurate timeline: the first year is upbeat (because everything is new and exciting), the second year is awful (because the newness and excitement have worn off), and the third year starts yielding some fruit. In the second year, you might have to look really hard for a good thing, but look anyway. Have thick skin and quick hope. Jesus has promised to build His church, and He cannot fail.
- Don’t forget to grow. A brand-new church can bring overwhelming opportunities for excitement; it’s a project-lover’s dream. But don’t neglect your own soul care. Keep the main thing the main thing. Spend time cultivating your relationship with Christ, with internalizing the gospel over and over and over and over, with learning new things about the kingdom and the world and yourself and other people. When you arrive in glory, you’ll be held accountable for only a few things. Tend to those things well and let someone else worry about the rest.
- Don’t spend too much time looking around. Looking up at others can lead to disappointment and bitterness, looking over at others can mean competition and comparison, and looking down at others can bring about pride and contempt. Keep your eyes fixed on Jesus and what He has in mind for your specific church. Allow others the freedom to do what He has called them to do, and encourage them along the way. The work is too great to be building our own kingdoms. There’s only one kingdom worth building, anyway.
We could not be more excited to have you along on this journey with us! Welcome to the joyful chaos.
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